The Green Bay Packers remained a perfect 7-0 as they beat the 1-6 Minnesota Vikings 33-27 on Sunday. The last undefeated team in the NFL was tested by its division foe in the first NFL start in the career of Christian Ponder.
After falling behind early and trailing at halftime, the Packers used a big third quarter to take control of the game as they held off a late Vikings rally. In their best performance of the season, the Vikings just didn't have the firepower to finish the job and take out the champs.
The Packers now head into their bye week before a road matchup against the San Diego Chargers in Week 9.
In the win, the Packers benefited from some great individual performances as they took a commanding two-game lead in the NFC North division race.
One of the most criticized Packers on the team, Jarrett Bush showed up in a big way for the Packers' defense missing cornerback Sam Shields with a concussion. A secondary that has surrendered a historical amount of yards needed Bush to contribute and he did.
Late in the second half, Bush perfectly defended a pass thrown by Christian Ponder to Michael Jenkins in the end zone and had a shot at intercepting the pass before being shoved out of the way by Jenkins. Without Shields, it appeared likely that the Vikings would target the often inconsistent Bush.
On special teams, Bush downed a critical punt at the Vikings 2-yard line with 5:26 left in the game. The play pinned back the Vikings, forcing them to go 98 yards for the go-ahead score. The Vikings got a couple first downs before having to punt. The Vikings never saw the ball again as the Packers ran out the clock.
For the first 57 minutes of the game, James Starks was having an average outing against the Vikings defense with seven carries for 20 yards. When the Packers took over with around two and a half minutes left in the game with the Vikings needing a stop to get a chance to win, Starks come through with pounding runs and critical first downs.
The Vikings knew the Packers were going to run the ball, but Starks was still able to pick up 55 yards and six carries on the game's final drive. Starks punished the Vikings with this physical style of running as he picked up first downs.
Throughout the game, the Packers did fairly well running the ball, but with the way Rodgers was destroying the secondary, the Packers didn't need to rely on the run. But when the Packers needed a rushing game the most, it came through and put the final nails in the Vikings' coffin.
Trailing at halftime, the Packers needed a scoring drive to open the second half to restore proper balance in the game. On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, the Packers used Randall Cobb in the backfield to pick up one yard. On the next play, Rodgers evaded the rush, rolled out and hit a wide open Greg Jennings down the right sideline for a 79-yard touchdown pass.
The catch was just one of Jennings' seven catches on the day. Jennings' seven receptions were good for 147 yards. With how many weapons Rodgers has at is disposal, it has been spectacular to see the numbers that Jennings has constantly put up.
Through seven games this season, Jennings is on pace to catch 96 passes for over 1500 yards and 11 touchdowns. This would easily give Jennings the best year of his career in terms of yardage and close to his career-best 12 touchdowns last season. Closing in on his fourth consecutive 1000 yard season, Jennings has separated himself from the other talented pass catchers for Green Bay.
Aaron Rodgers continued his domination of the NFL with another spectacular performance as he surgical spliced the Vikings secondary. Rodgers completed his first 13 passes against the Vikings only to see his completion streak end at the hands of Randall Cobb as he dropped Rodgers third down pass.
A perfect QB rating at half, Rodgers completed 17 of 20 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown. Of the three first-half incompletions, two were dropped passes and the other was a spike to stop the clock late in the half.
It has been an unreal season for Rodgers as he is surrounded with more weapons than any other quarterback. The athleticism that allows Rodgers to make throws like the one he made to Jennings on the long touchdown separate him from the rest of the league.
Through the first seven weeks of the NFL season, Rodgers is running away as the MVP favorite. The only strong competitor he has to this point is Calvin Johnson. It would probably take Johnson breaking Jerry Rice's single season touchdown record for him to have a shot at the award.
Every time it seems like Charles Woodson may be slowing down due to his age, he comes up with a game like he had today. Woodson picked on the rookie quarterback Christian Ponder making his first NFL start.
Woodson's two interceptions aided the Packers defense that once again surrendered a large sum of yards to the Vikings offense. Woodson's first interception occurred with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter and allowed the Packers to improve their lead to 30-17. Five minutes later, Woodson was at it again and the Packers offense converted with another field goal.
Coming into this week, Kyle Arrington's four interceptions lead the NFL with Woodson and twelve other players tied with second with three picks each. Woodson now has five for the season which should be good for at least a tie with the most in the NFL.